Has your head recently been pounding and straining? Are you generally headache free but all of sudden can’t shake the pain? If this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from a new daily persistent headache. This would explain the sudden pain you’re experiencing and why it’s just not going away.
New daily persistent headache (NDPH) can be a real struggle for those who are suffering from its wrath. This type of discomfort can either get stronger or weaker each day but unfortunately, it never truly goes away. While there are a number of pain management tools and medicines that can help give you relief, it’s important to understand why these conditions occur and what you can do to limit them from getting worse.
What is a New Daily Persistent Headache?
NDPH is classified as a primary headache disorder. This means that it is not affected by other conditions or disorders but rather the main contributing factor. Furthermore, this means that there aren’t any significant triggers or events that spark the pain. Some medical professionals do argue that it can be an indicator of other medical concerns, and for this reason, those who are suffering from the condition should consult their health care providers.
New daily persistent headache is a unique condition that occurs in people with no prior headache history. Because of this, many remember the exact date and time that it started.
As mentioned, these types of headaches develop in those who have had no prior history with similar conditions, hence “new”. For NDPH to be considered, it has to be present for over 3 months with continuous and daily pain. This type of pain may vary day-to-day but its persistence is key for its diagnosis and the reason for its chronic classification.
Although this condition is on the rarer side, it’s important to get a full understanding of what it entails. There are two forms of NDPH: self-limiting and refractory. The self-limiting form typically goes away within a few months and doesn’t require much intervention. Refractory, on the other hand, can be more challenging to treat.
What are the Symptoms?
Many sufferers of NDPH state that the discomfort is similar to that of tension or migraine headache. However, the main difference here is that it doesn’t get better over time but rather steadies within 24 hours of its start. The biggest indicator of the condition is the fact that most people are able to pinpoint the exact date that it started whereas a migraine or tension headache may slowly creep up on you.
Like with most headaches, NDPH follows the same pain patterns. This may occur on both sides of your head or throb on one side. Feelings of stabbing, aching, and burning can be experienced too, along with a tightening sensation. Light or sound sensitivity is a common occurrence with NDPHs as well.
Other symptoms include:
- Rapid and unremitting pain (up to and over 3 days)
- Mild to moderate pain intensity
- Pain isn’t aggravated by physical activity
Another fact to note is that NDPH can occur at any age, although the average age for sufferers of the condition is 35 years old. It is also more likely to occur in women than in men. It’s a common understanding that these headaches happen without any warning, however, some do experience flu-like symptoms before the head pain starts.
What Causes a New Daily Persistent Headache?
Unfortunately, the full scope of the new daily persistent headache condition isn’t fully understood. This is due to limited research and contradictory study results. The underlying cause of this condition can vary from person to person, which results in an array of possible triggers. Like with many chronic daily headaches, finding an identifiable underlying cause can be challenging.
Despite the above information, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t outlines of the condition’s causes. Typically, these stem from problems with inflammation or a weak immune system. There are also cases for viruses and respiratory infections that cause head pain.
One of the biggest concerns when looking at persistent headaches is investigating serious causes. When consulting your doctor, they may order an MRI or CT scan to rule out any major medical problems. These include:
- Blood vessel inflammation
- Intracranial pressure
- Brain tumor
- Traumatic brain injury
- Blood clots
Any of these medical issues can cause a build of pressure in the brain and can trigger sudden and severe headaches. It can even be the catalyst for the chronic head pain that is evident in NDPHs.
Of course, while investigating the causes for this particular condition, it would be beneficial to consider the wider scope of headaches too. Understanding the causes and locations of your head pain can assist in finding a solution for the discomfort while helping you navigate consultations with your medical care provider.
How is NDPH Diagnosed?
Typically speaking, NDPH is diagnosed through an analysis of a patient’s medical history along with a general examination. The reason for this is to rule out any other conditions that require immediate attention before settling on the NDPH diagnosis. As we’ve already mentioned, chronic headaches can be caused by serious conditions such as blood clots and tumors, so it’s vital that these are ruled out first.
Aside from ordering a CT or MRI scan, doctors can also look at bloodwork to determine the cause of the headache. Bloodwork can show any metabolic infections or inflammatory conditions that can be affecting the brain. Other tests, such as brain and vessel imaging and lumbar puncture, may be ordered too.
During these medical routines, your doctor will most likely ask you about your symptoms, when the headache started, and if any stressful periods recently occurred. NDPH can often occur in conjunction with these events. This will also act as an indicator of a new daily persistent headache diagnosis as you will be able to determine when the discomfort started.
Before seeing your medical professional, we highly recommend keeping a headache diary. This will help map out your signs and symptoms of the new daily persistent headache condition. It will also give your doctor better insight into how you’re feeling and when your symptoms are at their worst. For more information on headache journaling, make sure to read our article all about it here.
What are the Treatment Options Available?
Currently, there’s no specific treatment for the new daily persistent headache and it’s commonly treated in a similar way to migraines. Treatment plans also largely depend on the type of headache the case of NDPH resembles. Whether it’s migrainous or tension-type, staying alert of your narcotic usage is essential.
When it comes to prominent headaches, there’s the risk that some of the medication can be highly addictive. Medicine is a common treatment plan for NDPH and it may take some trial and error until you find the one that works for you.
Common medication for treating new daily persistent headache pain include:
- Muscle relaxers
- Nerve blocks
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Of course, medication isn’t the only treatment plan for sufferers of NDPH. Making lifestyle changes can have a dramatic effect on your life with a new daily persistent headache. Looking at your diet and working conditions for pain triggers can prove to be very effective in reducing your pain levels while maintaining a healthier treatment plan.
However, the truth about treating NDPH is that there aren’t enough studies to provide a concrete answer. Due to the many contributing factors that could be causing the new daily persistent headache, it’s often best to treat the underlying causes rather than the condition itself.
Ways to Cope with NDPH
Coping with any form of chronic illness can take a toll on your physical and mental health. While you may be seeking treatment elsewhere, it’s important to take care of yourself across the board. Following these tips and recommendations will help you lessen your load and relieve tension in other places.
Find the Right Doctor
Finding a doctor who is patient and trusts your feelings is extremely important in caring for your chronic condition. Chances are, once you start treatment, you are bound to see them more than once and have a few questions in between. A good doctor will be able to provide you with the answers you’re after and help you as you start new medications.
Seek Mental Help
Being in pain all day long can cause a lot of fear and frustration. Holding onto these feelings is not just bad for your mental health but can affect your physical well-being too. When things get tough, try opening up to a trusted family member or friend. You can even try speaking to a professional or support group.
Free Up Your Time
One way to help deal with your NDPH is to lighten your load. The pain can be debilitating at times and it’s important that you don’t overwork yourself with tasks that can be put off or shifted onto someone else.
When it comes to healing from a pain attack, you can get sick of laying around or thinking of your condition. Try finding podcasts or books to keep you entertained as you rest. The key here is to find things you enjoy but that won’t trigger an increase of discomfort.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, new daily persistent headache is one of the most disabling conditions and lacks concrete information about its causes and triggers. On top of this, treatment options may work for some people but not for others. However, monitoring your symptoms, understanding the causes, and making lifestyle changes can help you navigate your way through this chronic condition.